The last time most people saw Bills offensive lineman Eric Wood at One Bills Drive his leg was buried in a cast and he was on crutches. Following his badly broken leg in the Week 11 game at Jacksonville last year, Wood has endured a long period of inactivity while the bones in his leg healed. Now four months removed from surgery the gritty lineman has bounced back. So much so that instead of hoping to be ready for training camp he has almost come to expect it.
"I'm shooting for July and I figure if I shoot for July and I have a setback then August is the worst case," said Wood. "That's my goal right now and we'll see how it goes from there."
Wood was participating in the team's first week of voluntary offseason conditioning workouts this week. By no means is he back to full strength, nor is he full go as far as participation, but you wouldn't know it looking at him.
The lineman's injured left leg is the same size as his right leg and his limp has all but disappeared. Meanwhile he's been recently cleared to do any and all upper body work, and does not appear all that different in terms of muscle mass through his shoulders and chest. His only restrictions at this point are with his lower body and there can be no running or jogging.
"Right now it's just light lifting, flexibility, balance, just trying to get all my muscle memory back without jogging or any kind of impact," he said. "The bones are pretty much healed, but they're not completely settled so I don't want to get any impact do anything that could cause a setback. The offseason has been going on for a while, but at this point it's not even half over so I've got a lot of time."
Wood has taken a very cautious approach to his recovery and his body has rewarded him, as he's seen the most progress in his rehab in just the last month. His head coach has seen it too.
"I was fortunate that Eric was in about a month ago and he seemed to be doing well then and obviously he's a lot better now," said Chan Gailey. "It's amazing the difference even a month can make when you're healing from an injury like that."
Wood is trying to stay grounded and not get too excited about the impressive progress his leg has made over the past 30 days, but it has only helped boost his confidence that he can reach his goal of being fully ready for training camp.
"There's a long way to go and there are a lot of steps I take, but I'm really encouraged about the way it's progressed, especially the last month getting out of the boot and getting on it and doing some strength exercises," he said. "I'm really encouraged with where I am and how far I've come in a month. Hopefully we can just progress from there and with that momentum be good to go."
What has Gailey convinced that Wood will see his rehab through and be ready for camp is his work ethic and competitive drive.
"The good thing about him is his mental toughness," said Gailey of Wood. "This young man is very strong mentally. First of all you have to be strong to play in this league on the offensive line as a rookie. You better be tough mentally. Eric will be. I have no questions about Eric coming back and playing extremely well this year and in years to come."
With his weight training almost back to normal already, Wood is hoping to be cleared to begin running by the end of June. He's maintaining his cardiovascular strength and endurance by using the elliptical trainer, the stairmaster and exercise bike.
"I'm looking forward to coming back, hit July really hard and be ready for training camp," he said. "Everyone wants to say I won't be back this year or may never play again, and that just fuels my fire to want to prove them wrong and come back full strength to be better than I was last year."